OTTAWA – Canada will send a high-powered group of cross-country skiers and biathletes to the start line in Beijing with a focus on contributing to the nation’s medal count at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and Nordiq Canada announced on Wednesday.
The veteran squad features 10 returning members from the PyeongChang 2018 team that captured a record 16 medals including: Mark Arendz; Collin Cameron; Brittany Hudak; Brian McKeever (alongside guides Russell Kennedy and Graham Nishikawa); Emily Young; and Natalie Wilkie. Ethan Hess and Derek Zaplotinsky are also heading to their second straight Games.
Lyne-Marie Bilodeau and Christina Picton will be making their Paralympic debuts.
The complete Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games Para nordic team is:
1. Mark Arendz – Hartsville, PEI
2. Lyne-Marie Bilodeau – Sherbrooke, QC
3. Collin Cameron – Bracebridge, ON
4. Ethan Hess – Pemberton, BC
5. Brittany Hudak – Prince Albert, SK
6. Russell Kennedy* – Canmore, AB
7. Brian McKeever – Canmore, AB
8. Graham Nishikawa* – Whitehorse, YT
9. Christina Picton – Fonthill, ON
10. Emily Young – Kelowna, BC
11. Natalie Wilkie – Salmon Arm, BC
12. Derek Zaplotinsky – Smoky Lake, AB
*pending IPC approval
“This is an experienced group of athletes who have won medals under the most intense pressure at major international competitions including multiple times at the Paralympic Games,” said Kate Boyd, Nordiq Canada’s high-performance director for the Para nordic program. “They are proven performers who have their eyes focused squarely on podium performances every time they put on a race bib while continuing to work together to develop a new generation of athletes who are excited to have the opportunity to test themselves on the ultimate stage.”
The team will be led by Canada’s flag bearers at the 2018 Games – Brian McKeever and Mark Arendz.
McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian with 17 medals, is poised to add another chapter to his legendary career as he finalizes his preparations to compete in his sixth Paralympic Winter Games. The 42-year-old, who led the Canadian team into the Opening Ceremony in South Korea, is unbeaten in his last three Paralympics. McKeever, who will race with guides Kennedy and Nishikawa, won all three of his cross-country ski races in the men’s visually impaired category at PyeongChang 2018, Sochi 2014, and Vancouver 2010.
Arendz was Canada’s most prolific medallist in 2018, skiing onto the podium six times (claiming a gold, silver, and bronze in biathlon plus a silver and two bronze in cross-country) en route to being named the nation’s Closing Ceremony flag bearer. Competing in the men’s standing classification, Arendz will be participating in his fourth Paralympic Games after first debuting as a 20-year-old in Vancouver 2010.
“It is a true honour to be selected to my fourth Paralympics. Time has flown by over the last 12 years from being a naïve youngster in Vancouver where I discovered what it might take to reach the highest level in the sport to now a veteran of Team Canada focused on every little detail to continue to evolve and have medal winning performances,” said Arendz. “This will be a totally unique Games experience. I’m thrilled to head to a venue that no one else has skied or has conditions that we have experienced. I’m excited to be putting in the final preparations to go in ready to perform.”
Natalie Wilkie introduced herself to the world after winning a complete set of medals at her first Games four years ago at the age of 17.
“I’m really excited to be heading to my second Paralympic Games and building on my success from PyeongChang,” said Wilkie. “Having four more years of hard training, I know my teammates and I are stronger, and more focused than ever. I know that Team Canada is going to come in strong and throw down some amazing performances.”
Wilkie will be joined in the women’s standing category by close friends Brittany Hudak and Emily Young. Preparing for her third consecutive Paralympics, Hudak captured her first podium in PyeongChang, a biathlon bronze medal. Young will be making her second Paralympic appearance. She took home a silver in the mixed relay and bronze in the 7.5km cross-country events in PyeongChang.
Collin Cameron, Ethan Hess, and Derek Zaplotinsky will make their second Paralympic trip where they will compete in the men’s sit ski category. Cameron is a triple bronze medallist from 2018, while Hess and Zaplotinsky are also prepared to make their mark in Beijing.
Two Canadian women – Lyne-Marie Bilodeau and Christina Picton – will make their Paralympic debut while competing in the sit-skiing category.
“It’s been a dream of mine to compete at the Paralympics for a very long time, and I am so honoured to get a chance to represent Canada alongside some of the most hardworking, dedicated and talented people in sport,” said Picton. “To be a part of this team is to be surrounded by excellence. I’m humbled by this opportunity and excited to work hard and make the most of it.”
Bilodeau first competed on the international circuit in 2018, while Picton is headed for her Paralympic debut after making her first tracks in the sport just three years ago.
Canada’s Para nordic team raced to its best ever Paralympic Games at PyeongChang 2018, with a record-setting 16 medals (five gold, two silver, and nine bronze). A year later at the 2019 World Championships in Prince George, BC, Team Canada racked up 10 podium finishes. The athletes have had minimal opportunity to compete internationally over the past two years, however, they did combine to earn 17 medals at a World Cup event hosted in Canmore, AB in December.
The Para nordic skiing competitions in Beijing will run from March 5-13.
“Congratulations to each and every one of the incredible athletes who have been named to the Para nordic team for Beijing,” said Josh Dueck, chef de mission, Beijing 2022 Canadian Paralympic Team. “Canada has a history of being home to talented Para nordic skiers and this group of experienced, accomplished, dedicated, and resilient athletes – led by longtime team members and outstanding Paralympic ambassadors Brian McKeever and Mark Arendz – will definitely carry on the tradition. It will be really special to watch all 12 athletes compete in Beijing and I cannot wait to cheer them on.”
The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games will take place March 4-13, 2022 in China. Canada is expecting to send a team of approximately 50 athletes, and audiences across the country will be able to follow all the action live through coverage from the Canadian Paralympic Media Consortium, including broadcast partners CBC/Radio-Canada, AMI, and Sportsnet, and digital partners Twitter, Facebook, and MXZN.
CLICK HERE to see the complete list of athletes named to the Canadian Paralympic Team. The Canadian Paralympic Committee will announce the official full team set to compete closer to the Games.
Story and Photo courtesy of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.